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Russia seeks new missiles due to U.S. shield plans

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s military said on Friday it had intensified efforts to develop new ballistic missiles in response to U.S. plans to deploy an anti-missile system in Europe and Russia’s navy test fired a new generation rocket.

Soldiers in historical uniforms take part in a military parade in the Red Square in Moscow, November 7, 2008. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov

The decision by the United States to deploy interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic has angered Moscow, which says Russia’s national security will be compromised by the U.S. anti-missile system.

Colonel-General Nikolai Solovtsov, Commander of Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces, was quoted by Interfax as saying that Russia had bolstered its efforts to develop new missiles.

“At the present time, work has been intensified to create the research and technical foundation for new missile systems, which will be needed after 2020,” Solovtsov said.

A few hours later, the Dmitry Donskoy nuclear submarine launched a Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile from the White Sea, a navy spokesman said. The missile hit the Kura testing site on the Kamchatka peninsula in the Pacific.

Russia’s RIA news agency quoted an unidentified source in the Defense Ministry as saying it was the most successful test of the Bulava to date, after a string of failures and delays.

The previous test of the Bulava on September 18 was pronounced a success by the navy. Several launches of the Bulava, which is designed for Russia’s new generation of Borei class nuclear submarines, have failed however.

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced on November 5 that Moscow would install Iskander short-range missile systems near the Polish border if Washington proceeds with its missile plans.

Medvedev also said Russia would try to electronically jam the U.S. system.

Russia’s relations with Washington this year hit their lowest ebb since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union after a row over the war against U.S. ally Georgia and Moscow’s recognition of two Georgian rebel regions as independent states.

Kremlin officials say the U.S. has failed to listen to their concerns about the missile shield, which Washington says is needed to protect against “rogue states” such as Iran.

Russia’s missile forces commander said the first of a new generation of Russian RS-24 intercontinental ballistic missiles would enter service in December 2009, Interfax reported.

Russia test fired one of the RS-24 missiles on November 26, the third such test in two years.

Russian generals say the RS-24 can pierce any anti-missile system. It can be armed with up to 10 different warheads and is intended to replace Russia’s earlier generation intercontinental missiles such as the RS-18 and RS-20.

Solovtsov said the global financial crisis probably would impose some limits on funding, although Russia would test 13 missiles next year, almost double the seven tests this year, Interfax reported.

“Due to the world financial crisis, certain resource restrictions will be applied but still the (missile) force should be able to fulfill its duties,” he was quoted as saying.

Civilian personnel in Russia’s military forces also will be cut by 150,000 to 600,000 as part of ongoing reforms to defense structures, Interfax separately reported, quoting a source in the Defense Ministry.

Editing by Giles Elgood